December 6, 2004
INTRODUCTION BY FRANCIS FRANGIPANE:
I would like to introduce Susan Gaddis. She and her husband, Tom, have pastored
Atascadero Foursquare Church in Atascadero, California, for over 29 years. I was
first introduced to them when they invited me to speak at a city-wide event back
in October of 2003.
Susan's gift in communicating Biblical truths with humility and grace will become
very evident to you as you read today's article, which came from her newly published
book, Help! I'm Stuck with These People for the Rest of Eternity (Arrow
by Francis Frangipane
"Ouch - That Hurt!"
by Susan Gaddis
husband, Tom, and I had been involved in ministry only a few years when I experienced
the betrayal of a friend from church.
"You know, I wouldn't say this if I didn't
love you," was her introduction to a very destructive avalanche of criticism. It
came as quite a shock as I had naively believed that Christians didn't do this type
Hurt beyond understanding, I pulled away from
people and just hibernated within the confines of motherhood duties. L.I.F.E. Bible
College had not prepared me for this type of wound. Confused, I began to search
the Scriptures for instructions on how I was supposed to process this pain. There
had to be answers somewhere within the pages of the 66 books of the Bible.
Slowly, over nine months, my notebooks were filled with Scripture passages related
to offense. I began to experience healing as God's Word was applied. I learned more
in the process than I had bargained for, as God wanted to address further arenas
than just my hurt feelings.
Categories emerged that addressed all aspects
of offense. This chapter and the next are the result of those nine months of study.
Of course, it is taking years for me to actually put all this stuff into practice,
but the results in my relationships have been well worth the effort.
WHY DOES GOD ALLOW DIVISION AND DISUNITY
TO TAKE PLACE?
All of us have had our feelings hurt at some point or another. Even Paul and Barnabas
had their very verbal disagreements in the midst of missionary service, so we are
in good company. In the book of Acts, the first "deacon board" was formed for the
specific purpose of dealing with a group of widows who were offended because their
needs weren't being met by the church. So, hurt feelings, disagreements, and people
getting upset have been a part of church life for a very long time! 1 Corinthians
11:17-19 addresses this problem:
"But in giving this
instruction, I do not praise you, because you come together not for the better but
for the worse. For, in the first place, when you come together as a church, I hear
that divisions exist among you; and in part, I believe it. For there must also
be factions among you, in order that those who are approved may have become evident
among you (NASB, italics mine)."
God allows disunity and division among His
people so that it will reveal those who know how to rightly process conflict and
those who don't! People who handle offenses with Scriptural integrity are those
who are more qualified and approved for leadership in the Kingdom of God. Leaders
will be recognized by their ability to wisely handle disagreements and strife in
their own relationships, as well as in the corporate body.
Few churches follow this process for evaluating
possible leadership, but it is one of the main qualifiers set down in the Word of
God. Understanding how to deal with offense is crucial to all mature relationships
in the kingdom.
UNDERSTANDING THE MEANING OF "OFFENSE"
The Scriptures use several different words for our one word, "offense." Each paints
a word picture to help us better understand the meaning of offense. In the Old Testament,
two Hebrew words are used:
(1) "Mikshoh" means "a stumbling block"
or "to fall." This is a true description of offense because a person always
stumbles within before he stumbles in his outward reactions. This is why we often
refer to offense as "hurt feelings."
(2) "Pasha" means "to break away from just
authority" or "to trespass." Unfortunately, offense often happens when we overstep
our boundaries or trespass on another's personal boundaries. Clearly, rebellion
has offense at its core.
In the New Testament, the Greek word "skandalizo" is used and means to
trip up, to stumble, and entice to sin." It is from skandalizo that our English
word "scandal" originates. Offense is a trap: once caught up in it, one finds it
hard to untangle the resulting mess. In addition, offense is often the welcome mat
to all sorts of temptations in life.
Offense lies at the root of most interpersonal relationship problems, both with
others and with God. It was the first reaction of Satan as he initiated and nurtured
pride in his heart. It led to his rebellion against the Lord and God's subsequent
rejection and condemnation of him. Offense is the explanation for the old sin nature
operating in our lives and often the reason we fail to walk in the power of the
Holy Spirit. It is usually the first door Satan uses in bringing temptations to
In counseling, offense is frequently at the end of the "trail" we follow in a person's
life to find the origin of a problem. Some sort of offense is consistently the initial
cause of anger, rebellion, hurt feelings, shame, pride, depression, and adultery
-- whether the offense is against a person or against God and His ways.
Sometimes we are the cause of offense; other
times, we are the victims of another's offense. Even when we are the victims of
offense, we still tend to take offense and give offense. If we can understand how
offense works and how to deal with it on a personal level, then we can avoid personal
sin and wounds.
EACH OF US ARE LIVING STONES BUILT TOGETHER
1 Peter 2:5 calls each of us to be living stones.
"You also, like living
stones, are being built into a spiritual house to be a holy priesthood, offering
spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ" (NIV).
Stones come in all shapes and sizes and a master
mason will fit them together in such a way that function and beauty are the final
results of a building. Often stones must be reshaped to fit with other stones. The
stones really don't have much input on where they are to be fitted. Their responsibility
is simply to be available to be chipped and placed in the structure according to
the mason's design.
As our Master Mason, God works with us as "living" stones. This implies that we
have more of a part to play than regular, "dead" stones that are used as building
materials. We have to be willing to be chipped and reshaped according to our Mason's
design for the spiritual house He is building. Living stones can always walk off
the construction project if they so desire. Some people do so because they don't
like the other stones that God wants to fit around them.
In addition, many of us don't like the idea
that it is often other people that God uses to rub the sharp points off of our personality
as He reshapes us for His purposes. Therefore, becoming a "spiritual house" involves
commitment to God's project and commitment to our relationships with other believers.
Offense will destroy a spiritual building project faster than any other form of
destruction. Knowing this, God gives us two commands to keep His house design intact.
The first command is found in 1 Corinthians 10:32: "Give
no offense either to Jews or to Greeks or to the church of God" (NASB).
This is a simple command - don't offend anyone.
The second command is found in Philippians
1:10: "That you may approve the things that are excellent,
that you may be sincere and without offense till the day of Christ" (NKJV).
This also is a simple command - don't get offended.
Two simple commands that are almost impossible to obey! We aren't allowed to give
offense or to be offended, yet God wouldn't have said these things if they were
unattainable. Everything that we need to know about handling offense can be learned
as we evaluate our lives and look to the Scriptures. Once we know some of the danger
areas and signs of offense, we can search the Scriptures for God's how-to instructions
concerning offense and follow them.
"DANGER! DO NOT ENTER"
All of us have areas in our lives where we can easily be offended or can easily
give offense. These are the arenas where we must be on the alert for offense to
happen. One such arena is the area of unmet expectations. Usually, it is a lack
of communication that lies at the bottom of unmet expectations.
Mary found herself getting very offended with her husband when they were first married
because he never took out the garbage. In her family, it was always the men who
took out the garbage. She didn't know that in his family it had always been the
women. Mary had an unmet expectation based on her own unspoken rule.
I recently talked with a pastor who was offended because his elders were not doing
things the way the pastor expected and appeared to be overstepping their authority.
I asked him if he had given his elders a job description and he replied that he
Since boundary lines had not been clearly defined,
people were unknowingly causing offense. This was his fault, not theirs. His frustrations
could have been avoided through proper communication and clearly defined expectations.
This would also have allowed the elders to think through their own expectations
before discussion of any discrepancies with the pastor.
CONFRONTATION: HOW TO DO SO IN LOVE
Confrontation is another danger area for offense. No one likes to be confronted
and most of us don't like to confront others. However, confrontation is a part of
life. Love confronts. God confronted us when He gave us the Ten Commandments. Confrontation
has to be done if people are to grow. How it is done is what determines if
offense or growth results. If we know that confrontation is an area where offense
can occur, then we need to evaluate the way we confront others and how we receive
The avalanche of criticism mentioned at the beginning of this chapter might have
gone much differently if my friend had approached me with a less self-righteous
attitude. While her comments contained some truths, they were missed because of
her cutting words. A few compliments thrown in could have softened the blow and
allowed me to evaluate her observations. I needed to know that behind her confrontation
was a heart that was for me and not against me.
THE DANGERS OF ASSUMPTION
Assumption can also be a danger area for most of us. Sally had been sick for a number
of years with an undefined illness. Her friend, Jean, confidently expressed her
belief that Sally's illness was directly related to a dietary fast Sally had been
following. Jean felt the fast was undermining Sally's health.
What Jean did not know was that the fast was
only a few weeks long and that it had been completed. The type of fast Sally had
chosen had been through a doctor's recommendation. Jean ended up looking rather
foolish because she had not researched her facts before she gave her opinion. She
assumed something that was not true. Sally ended up feeling offended and under Jean's
Often, we fail to get the facts of a situation and we assume something that may
not be true. We infer things that are not there. Poor decisions based on assumption
are often the result. I have friends who left their church because they assumed
that no one there liked them. Others have assumed negative things about a person
without hearing the person's full story. We must be careful not to be offended about
something for which we do not have all the information.
HORMONAL OR CHEMICAL IMBALANCE
A final danger area worth mentioning is the time when our bodies are experiencing
a hormonal or chemical imbalance. Many people suffer a chemical imbalance when their
serotonin levels are depleted, usually a result of stress. A woman's monthly cycle
can bring on hormonal imbalances that create an atmosphere for offense for her and
for all those around her.
Because this is an occasional danger area for
me, I have learned to give myself pep talks before I go out in public. At least
once a month, on a Sunday morning, I will lecture myself before service, "Susan,
don't talk about anything serious with anyone. Smile, nod and be silent."
SIGNS THAT WE HAVE BECOME OFFENDED
Sometimes we are oblivious to the fact that we have become offended. One of the
indications that we have just entered a "Danger, Do Not Enter" area of offense can
be a feeling of irritation. Frustration is often a signal that we are getting offended.
Defensiveness is another caution, because if our thought life is in a defensive
mode, then we are probably offended. Putting up walls in a relationship or distancing
oneself from family, friends, and church activities is another warning sign.
The problem of offense is only going to increase as the end times approach. Years
ago, Campbell McAlpine was teaching on offense at our church and explained how
Matthew 24:10 was written to believers concerning the end times:
"And then shall many be
offended, and shall betray one another, and shall hate one another" (KJV).
Note the progression in this verse: offense
leads to betrayal, which leads to hatred. Because of this pattern, Campbell stated
that, "Every offended Christian is a potential betrayer."
Satan's strategy is always to divide and conquer
the relationships of believers through offense. Luke writes of Paul's encounters
with offense and betrayal in Acts 24 and includes Paul's statement in
"This being so, I myself
always strive to have a conscience without offense toward God and men" (NKJV).
May this be our commitment also: to have a
conscience that is free of offense.
THREE PREVENTATIVE MEASURES FOR OFFENSE
People plan weddings, vacations, and retirement; however, no one wakes up in the
morning with the thought, "I think I'll get offended today." We don't intend for
offense to happen. Unfortunately, neither do we take precautions to avoid offense.
It just happens! Yet, the Scriptures give three different ingredients as preventative
measures in our lives for offense:
(1) God's Word,
(2) A renewed mind, and
(3) The use of prudence, knowledge, and discernment
Psalm 119:165 states, "Great peace have they which
love thy law: and nothing shall offend them" (KJV). This Scripture contains
both a promise and a condition. It is one of those "if ____, then _____" verses
discussed in Chapter One. If I love God's Word (the condition), then nothing will
be able to offend me (the promise)! How does this work?
The more we get God's Word into our mind and heart, the more peace reigns in our
lives. Things that used to offend us no longer are an issue. God's Word has become
the deciding force of our personal identity, not what others say or think about
us. We have to allow His Word, also called a "two-edged sword," to work as a scalpel
within our attitudes and motives, cutting off all patterns of thinking that are
different than what Scripture declares. This is how we become conformed into His
In John 16:1 Jesus states it this way, "These things
have I spoken unto you, that ye should not be offended" (KJV).
Jesus said many things during His life here
on earth. However, the totality of Scripture also represents Christ, because one
of His names is Word of God (see Revelation 19:13). He intentionally told
us many things so that we would listen, follow His instructions, and not become
The Scriptures are to act like positive pressure within our personalities, resisting
any other pressure coming against us. A balloon will stay blown up as long as the
pressure inside the balloon is greater than the pressure pushing against it from
its surface. If the outside pressure becomes greater than the pressure within, the
balloon will pop.
In the same way, God's Word is to become a
positive force within us. As long as this pressure is greater than any stress we
are experiencing from without, we won't cave in.
GOD'S WORD ENABLES US TO DISCERN GOOD
Knowing God's Word involves more than just reading the Bible. We have to practice
what we learn from our study of the Scriptures. Hebrews 5:11-14 further identifies
the practice of God's Word as the agent that will enable us to discern good from
"We have much to say about
this, but it is hard to explain because you are slow to learn. In fact, though by
this time you ought to be teachers, you need someone to teach you the elementary
truths of God's word all over again. You need milk, not solid food! Anyone who lives
on milk, being still an infant, is not acquainted with the teaching about righteousness.
But solid food is for the mature, who by constant use have trained themselves
to distinguish good from evil (NIV, italics mine)."
An example of practicing God's Word on a constant
basis would be to carefully study the Scriptures contained in this chapter and the
next. Then, whenever you have an opportunity to be offended, make a decision to
respond according to the instruction of these Scriptures, rather than how you might
have reacted in the past. Over time, you will find maturity happening in your life
as you continue to put these Scriptures into practice.
You will also find that you are able to distinguish good and evil in your actions
and reactions with others. You will know when you are reacting in a way contrary
to God's way when you encounter an offense, and you will know when you have responded
in a good way. The evil motives or misunderstood good motives of others will be
much easier to discern as you continue to actively respond to offenses according
to scriptural instruction.
TWO: RENEW YOUR MIND
The second preventative measure for offense is the renewing of your mind. Your mind
did not become saved along with your spirit; it still thinks and processes things
according to old habit patterns. Romans 12:2 states that our minds have to
be transformed in order to discern God's will in various situations.
"Do not conform any longer
to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then
you will be able to test and approve what God's will is -- his good, pleasing and
perfect will" (NIV).
Transformation happens the more our minds are
renewed to think the way God thinks.
It is within our old thinking patterns that Satan uses his tricks to rope us into
offense. 2 Corinthians 2:11 advises us to be aware of this danger.
"Lest Satan should take
advantage of us; for we are not ignorant of his devices" (NKJV).
The word "devices" in this verse is better
translated from the Greek as "mind devices." Any area of our mind that is not renewed
to God's way of thinking is a place where Satan can influence us. 2 Corinthians
10:3-5 provides directions on how to renew our minds:
"For though we walk in the
flesh, we do not war after the flesh: (For the weapons of our warfare are not carnal,
but mighty through God to the pulling down of strong holds;) Casting down imaginations,
and every high thing that exalteth itself against the knowledge of God, and bringing
into captivity every thought to the obedience of Christ (KJV, italics mine)."
6 STEPS TO RENEWING YOUR MIND
This will not be easy! You must be committed
to doing the following:
1. Tune into your reactions to people and situations. Ask yourself, "What am I
feeling, and why am I feeling this way?"
2. Listen to your self-talk. What is the inner conversation going on in your mind?
Does it sound like "the peace of God" type of talk or is it more along the lines
of defensiveness and frustration?
3. After you have tuned into your thoughts and feelings, try to identify the wrong
reasonings and thought patterns that are contrary to scriptural ways of reasoning.
4. Once you have identified the thinking that is exalting itself above the way that
God would have you think, simply refuse to listen to these wrong ways of thinking.
5. Replace these wrong ways of thinking with the Scriptures from this chapter and
the next concerning God's ways of processing offense.
6. Act out the instructions of these Scriptures. Do what the Word says! Refuse to
do things the way you have in the past! Only then will you find maturity happening
in your life, and only then will you be on the preventative side of offense!
THREE: MOVING IN KNOWLEDGE, PRUDENCE,
The third preventative measure for offense is to move in knowledge, prudence, and
discernment whenever we encounter an occasion for offense. Prudence is the ability
to look right through a situation and see both sides of it at the same time. Someone
has said that it is insight that draws a godly conclusion.
Philippians 1:9-10 states,
"And this I pray, that your love may abound yet more and
more in knowledge and in all judgment; That ye may approve things that are
excellent; that ye may be sincere and without offense till the day of Christ"
(KJV, italics mine).
The ability to move in this type of discernment and wisdom is a direct result of
practicing the first two preventative measures. Once you have begun to act on God's
Word that you have put into your heart and mind, and have begun to see your mind
renewed, then prudence and discernment will accompany your relationships.
A good example of knowledge, prudence, and discernment is Solomon's comment in
Ecclesiastes 7:21-22. "Do not pay attention to every
word people say, or you may hear your servant cursing you -- for you know in your
heart that many times you yourself have cursed others" (NIV).
This is one Scripture we should all memorize
by Susan Gaddis